Stranger Things: A Budtender’s Critique of the Savage Lovecast’s ‘Weed Episode’

This Valentine’s Day, if you’re seeking advice about using cannabis in the bedroom, don’t call Dan Savage or David Schmader with your questions. At least, not until they apologize for the egregiously bad advice they gave two women on a fairly recent episode of Savage’s podcast, the “Weed Episode.”

The first caller, a woman, asks for advice about using weed in the bedroom. She wants to know about THC versus CBD levels, and about “indica versus sativa.” She explains that she stumbled upon a “killer combo,” a cannabis cultivar (i.e., strain) that she consumed blindly. This caller was eager to find out what it was that she consumed because it really “got [her] going.” She asks Savage, who admittedly is not “a pot connoisseur,” to help her figure out what she had. Before addressing her question Savage calls for back up. He introduces his guest expert, his long-time friend and former colleague at The Stranger, Schmader, to help him field a few questions about canna-sex.

At this point, my plan to be lulled to sleep by talk radio was foiled. I needed to know how these two men — one who seemed to be blissfully content to be ignorant of the latest cannabis science research, and the other, the “expert” using dated language — would answer this caller’s question.

Then Schmader recommended this woman “a heavy sativa,” saying confidently, “I bet that’s what lit her up that one time.” At that point I had my answer. It was no surprise when the response to the second caller, a self-described “straight girl from Mississippi,” missed the mark too (this listener wanted to know how to enjoy sex without using pot as often).

Boys, take a leaf out of your own alt-weekly and please shut up about indica and sativa. Those words actually describe the plant’s physical characteristics, not the effects of its flower. “Cutting edge budtenders” like myself, the ones you scoffed at and made fun of, understand that the sativa-indica binary is inaccurate, and detrimental to the consumer experience. We know that the misconceptions that stem from the misuse of those words is widespread thanks to decades of prohibition and lack of verified information about the cannabis plant. “Indica” and “sativa” have no bearing whatsoever on whether a specific type of cannabis flower or product is going be mood elevating or sedating, and accompanied by a body high, cerebral high, or perhaps a bit of both. And you didn’t even acknowledge the question about the difference between THC and CBD, but no problem. I got you caller number one!

THC and CBD are two major cannabinoids abundant in cannabis. They are both psychoactive, but CBD does not cause an intoxicating cerebral high as THC does. Both cannabinoids work in orchestra with a variety of sub-cannabinoids and terpenes (naturally occurring essential oils in cannabis and other plants, fruit, and spices), to influence certain effects in a process known as “the entourage effect.” All cannabis cultivars, across a spectrum of effects and growing conditions, have unique varying types and levels of terpenes (terps for short) in them.

Caller, you should be asking your local “budtenders” (like baristas, but for weed) about limonene. Limonene, a terpene abundant in citrus fruits, is also great for stress relief in addition to mood elevation and energy. These effects tend to go hand in hand with putting folks who enjoy sex in the mood to have it.

Cannabis chemovars that have citrusy names like “lemon” “tangerine” “tangelo” “orange” or “lime” are likely going to contain limonene.

Linalool, a terpene commonly found in lavender is associated with stress-reduction and relaxation, and its a terpene that my body agrees with. I’ve noticed significant amounts of linalool in sleepier options like Recon, LA Confidential, and Razzberry Lemonade, among others. Each person’s body and endocannabinoid system are different though.

So, with all the options how do you know which terpene combination and cultivar is ideal for you?

Unfortunately, the answer isn’t straight forward. Cannabis testing requirements vary from state to state, and growers and dispensaries don’t always test their product for terpenes, meaning they are foregoing key information that consumers like yourself ought to know in order to make an informed decision. If you can help it, buy your products from a dispensary that tests for terpenes and can provide you with a profile of what is most abundant in each cultivar. And keep in mind that figuring out what lights your unique fire may be easier (and safer) if you consume small amounts, or micro-dose in your process of experimentation.

There’s no way Schmader or Savage could have known what type of weed their lady-caller had. But telling her to try out “sativa strains” is bad advice. Joking about PCP-laced joints instead of dispelling a huge myth is a missed opportunity. If effectively informing consumers on their options through scientifically-sound advice makes one of Leafly’s senior editors roll his eyes, then what weight does my honor of being Leafly’s Oregon Budtender of the Year at Oregon’s Best Overall dispensary really carry?

Yes, Savage and Schmader, getting into the weeds about weed can be “as tedious as listening to people talk about wine,” as you both say. It’s with good reason though: As a society, we generally understand the effects and risks of regular alcohol consumption. Cannabis and the consequences of a prolonged altered state is a different story though. It’s still new territory for a lot of folks. The educated cannabis consumer is “the new black” and you two owe it to the people who look to you both as experts to do right by them by doing your due diligence when dispensing advice on cannabis.

If you were wondering about the second caller’s question, Schmader stole the segment with a weird anecdote about inviting a few women (presumably his friends) over to his house, and “[taking] notes” while he observed them apply cannabis-infused lube to their vulvas. Sorry, Schmader, but as a woman, the “there’s a bloom in my womb!” endorsement doesn’t cut it. Do better.

So, Dan Savage, let’s fix this. The cannabis industry is full of amazing women, and if we’ve learned anything from 2017 it’s that women will be heard. This Valentine’s Day bring some flower instead of flowers to the Lovecast and amplify some female voices in the cannabis industry. Kick it later with Schmader and show us women some love by introducing us to some nerdy cannabis experts who can speak knowledgeably about the efficacy of cannabis in the bedroom and on our vulvas. Not sure who? Here are seven Seattle and Portland-based women more equipped to speak about cannabis and sex than David Schmader:

  • Emma Chasen- Chasen is the Director of Education at Portland, Oregon-based cannabis science and business school, Sativa Science Club. She earned her degree in medicinal plant science from Brown University, and helped establish the education program at Farma, a local dispensary. Follow her on Instagram, @echasen .
  • Amanya Maloba, Janice Ibarra, and Vanity Thomas- Maloba, Ibarra, and Thomas head up the female art collective for “badass chicks who pursue their dreams, are committed to building strong communities, and share the same love of cannabis.” The three women defy the under representation of women of color in cannabis lifestyle media, and engage with their followers on the intersectional topics of cannabis, spirituality, and feminism. Follow the collective on Instagram @women.weed.wifi or here on, Women.Weed.WiFi.
  • Dr. Rachel Knox- Dr. Rachel Knox is a cannabis specialist with formal training in Family and Integrative Medicine from Tufts University. She is also a co-founder of The Canna MDs, is the current Medical chair of the Minority Cannabis Business Association, and was recently appointed Vice-chair of the Oregon Cannabis Commission. Follow her on Instagram @thedocknox .
  • Dr. Jessica Knox- Dr. Jessica Knox is also a co-founder of The Canna MDs and earned her medical and business degrees from Tufts University. She has a background in Preventive Medicine and Public Health, and regularly counsels patients on the use of cannabis for targeted therapeutic relief.
  • Me- Oregon’s Budtender of the Year 2017, and host and producer of the soon-to-be-released cannabis “potcast,” High, Good People. Follow me on Instagram @highgoodpeople .